Toeing The Cliff

The House will adjourn tonight with no vote on the fiscal cliff crisis.  The President said this afternoon that an agreement is near.  Word is Democrats have compromised on tax cuts by agreeing not to raise taxes for anyone earning $450,000/year or less.  This cuts potential revenues by 40% making it harder to balance the budget.

No House votes means the country will go over the fiscal cliff at midnight.  Because January 1st is a federal holiday nothing will happen tomorrow either.

Keystone Progress had a bit of fun this morning holding its “Fiscal Cliff Bowl” on a field in the 16th Congressional District in Reading.  Mike Morrill did the announcing while Dan Sauder played the part of Jim Gerlach who rigged the game for the millionaires.

Pelosi Vows to Protect Medicare & Social Security

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi visited Santa Fe, New Mexico yesterday and told an audience at the Mary Esther Gonzales Senior Center she will not allow the Congressional Super Committee “to be a chopping block for” the programs.  She ridiculed Texas Governor Rick Perry for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme and said Social Security shouldn’t even be used in the same sentence with deficit reduction.  Social Security has nothing to do with the federal deficit.

The unannounced visit with local Congressman Ben Ray Lujan and others provided a forum for the former Speaker to condemn those who were silent while the deficit was being amassed by former President Bush with tax cuts for the rich and two unfunded wars.  I do recall Speaker Pelosi voting to fund the Iraq War however.  

Social Security was put on the negotiating table by President Obama during negotiations on the debt ceiling even though it is self supporting, is safe until 2037 and can be expanded by lifting the cap on contributions.  In these harsh economic times the program should be expanded instead of cut back and as more and more Americans lose their pensions more of us are dependent on Social Security.  Lifting the cap on incomes subject to taxation would solidify Social Security and allow an expansion of benefits.

Medicare is in trouble because of runaway health care costs.  The President’s bill will do little to rein them in and does nothing to provide a public option for those mandated to buy insurance from for profit, private corporations.  Expanding Medicare by adding benefits and making it a national single payer plan solves those issues, gives access to quality medical care to every person and ends the runaway costs adding to the deficit.

The solutions to both deficit reduction and health care costs adding tot he deficit are real and actual and reasonable.  They can be accomplished by passing The People’s Budget and help Americnas rather than hurting them.  Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Santa Fe was welcome and her words important.

Note:  I am visiting Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Obama’s Saturday Night Massacre

Obama once said he’d be a one term President if it meant doing what was right for the country.  He will be a one term President because he failed to do what is right for the country.   The “compromise” forged last night is horrendous and will hurt the economy, devastate seniors and the disabled, jeopardize our national defense and kill jobs.  How is it that poison pills like Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid only appear when the White House is involved?  This “compromise” includes NO revenue hikes.  No new taxes are in the bill, we will see $2.8 trillion in cuts to fund tax cuts for the rich and for corporations.

How do you think this Super Committee will find $2.8 trillion to cut without gutting Social Security and Medicare?  It can’t be done.  The penalty if they don’t is a Balanced Budget Amendment, the ultimate poison pill.  It’s time to call everyone in Washington, your Congressperson, Senators and the White House and express your outrage.  Then go to your county courthouse and leave your Party.  If they see a mass migration of voters to non affiliated status it will get their attention.  Then refuse to give any more money to any Party affiliated organization or candidate/elected official who votes for this monstrosity.  It’s time to take to the streets people.

News & Notes November 18, 2010

I needed a bit of a hiatus there after an intense fall.  I’m still waiting for my new desktop (fried by a lightning strike in September) so I’m muddling through on the laptop.  I wish Erie was faster about paying claims!

Nancy Pelosi survived a threat from Blue Dog Dems including Jason Altmire yesterday to win her post as Minority Leader 135-40.  This is why the Blue Dogs were decimated in the election:  they aren’t actual Democrats.

There’s tons of buzz about Dwight Evans’ fall from power in Harrisburg.  His arrogance, hubris and obstructionism on key bills hammered home his ruthless use of his power and that was his downfall.  The former Democratic leadership team is now gone and no one is crying the blues.  Many real, actual reformers lost their seats because that team blocked all their efforts at reform and real progress for Pennsylvania.  The approval of those libraries for Murtha and Specter cost them the majority because they refused to stand up to the Governor.  The GOP hammered away relentlessly at that pork.  He deserved to be replaced.

Fox News is targeting George Soros because he finally contributed money to Media Matters.  Fox has accused him of doing so for years untruthfully and now is attempting to make him into the devil.  Glenn Beck has accused the Jewish survivor of WWII of helping send Jews to the death camps.  Smears don’t come any lower than this but then, this is Glenn Beck.

As more and more Americans fall into poverty the numbers of them having trouble feeding themselves is climbing alarmingly.  Now imagine if Congress refuses to extend unemployment past Nov. 30th?  Since they ran against the deficit and unemployment benefits they’re between a rock and a hard place.  Knocking these people off the rolls and onto welfare doesn’t save much and hurts the economy.  The ripple effect of government spending stimulates economic activity, every $1 results in $1.42 in economic activity.  This means more small businesses will see lower revenues.

I’m astounded at the ignorance and stupidity of those who seek to lead this country.  If you don’t know basic economics go take a course.

Medicare Part D premiums are rising 20-40% next year according to this article in today’s PG.  Regular health care costs also continue their spectacular increases.  One of my primary objections to HCR was the lack of cost containment provisions and we’re witnessing that at the end of the year.  

A New Hampshire school board member and Vietnam veteran tried indoctrinating a class of children by claiming progressivism and liberalism are evil companions of socialism and communism.  Such brainwashing by the president of a school board is outrageous.  Didn’t Republicans raise a furious clamor when Obama made just a motivational speech to kids last year that was completely apolitical?  The constant progression of their own sins onto the opposition makes one wonder if Republicans are mentally ill.

Sarah Palin thinks she can beat Obama in 2012.  Of course she thinks she’s intelligent, can see Russia from her porch and that abstinence is good for other people but not her own family too.  This woman is delusional.  Make my day, run Sarah run.

Charlie Rangel gets his punishment meted out by the House of Representatives today.  The Congressman broke basic rules and should be punished.  I rail against Republicans who do these things so justice needs to be equal.  He left his trial claiming he hadn’t had time to get a lawyer.  How many months does that require Charlie?  I love the guy but he did wrong.

Pennsylvania’s Adult Basic is about to expire.  This throws more people on to the rolls of the uninsured, that total is currently 59 million and still growing.

Felon Bob Asher is co Chair of Tom Corporate’s inaugural committee.  He’s one of the AG’s top funders.  The other co-chair is from the gas drilling industry.  A sneak peek at the next four years?  I’ll, at least, have lots of corruption on which to report.

The media is all atwitter about the new TSA pat downs.  I won’t mind them if I can choose my molester, I want a cute one.

News & Notes November 8, 2010

Nancy Pelosi will run for Minority Leader as well she should.  She was one of the most successful Speakers in decades shepherding 472 bills through the House this session.  Just because Senate Republican filibustered 90% of them doesn’t make her tenure ineffective.  She had no control over Senate rules.

Those Senate rules are responsible for our dysfunctional government, not Democrats.  Of course the GOP didn’t have to insist on obstructing all legislation and almost all presidential appointments but now that voters have endorsed their hyperpartisanship it is unlikely they’ll stop.  The moronic intelligence of the average American voter never ceases to amaze me.

Keith Olbermann created some hysteria on the left last week after he was temporarily suspended by MSNBC for contributing to three Democratic candidates without disclosing it on TV.  There wa smuch anguish because Joe Scarborough regularly gives to Republicans but was never disciplined.  The real issue here is disclosure.  If you are writing or talking about a candidate for whom you are giving or receiving material support you must disclose that.  I think the MSNBC action was appropriate given the circumstances.

This reminds me how just before the election I was asked to make phone calls for a candidate for whom I was covering for The Huffington Post.   The coordinated campaign manager was somehow unaware of the inappropriateness of her request.  There’s no way, journalistically, I could do that working for an outlet like HuffPo.  

The Pennsylvania State House decided to can the rest of its session.  This leaves some very important legislation hanging out to dry.  With the GOP set to take control of all levels of state government in January this is especially unfortunate.   Maybe they deserved to lose.  

I’ve been catching up on all those personal errands and tasks which take a back seat right before elections.  It’s usually a week until I catch up on sleep and errands.  Today I was getting my Blackberry tuned up, looked at new phones and finally figured out how to use my MiFi aircard wirelessly.  The service at both AT&T and Verizon was superb.  I even got some Christmas shopping finished.

The State House election was a serious loss for pro choice supporters.  Seven key supporters of rights for women went down to defeat.  With Corbett & Co. coming in options for women may get severely curtailed.  I’m afraid funding for family planning in this next state legislature may take a beating.  My advice?  Don’t have sex.  Remember this in 2012.

Meehan Gets His Facts Wrong on Biden

Pat Meehan sent an email today (around 1 PM) accusing Joe Biden of something he didn’t do.  This is interesting because the White House pool report (which I get when they’re in PA) clearly said this wasn’t accurate.

Meehan is accusing the Vice President of saying Nancy Pelosi was the most powerful person in Washington.  The former “loyal Bushie” jumped on it calling it a gaffe because, obviously, Barack Obama has that title.  Here’s the problem:  according to the press pool report that isn’t what Biden said:

VP Biden did not leave out the President in his remarks in Philadelphia today– he said his name during applause.

Biden was referring to a comment Schwartz made that Pelosi was the most powerful woman in politics. Biden’s full quote:

“You know Allyson said the most powerful woman in American politics. I would rephrase that: the most powerful person in American politics (applause…unclear comments on audio)  with the exception of the President of the United States. And I mean that sincerely.”

Biden then talked about how he has worked with a number of House speakers over the years, and said “the single most successful, the single most persuasive the single most strategic leader I have ever worked with is Nancy Pelosi.”

The pool reporter was Joelle Farrell of The Philadelphia Inquirer and it is interesting the Meehan campaign embarrassed themselves without checking their information.  Or did they and just not care they made a false accusation?  These are Republicans after all and we know they never allow facts to get in the way of a bad opinion.  It isn’t as if their supporters will fact check them is it?

The Message From Massachusetts

We can all thank voters in Massachusetts for killing this awful health insurance reform bill.  The election of State Senator Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate yesterday on a platform of voting against the bill is sending shock waves through Washington.  As well it should.  I doubt President Obama, Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Reid will get the message however.  Democrats sent the same message in November and it was missed.  Why would we think it would sink in now?

Massachusetts is the model for the national legislation and voters there hate what Mitt Romney imposed upon them and did the nation a favor yesterday by, perhaps, killing it on a national level.  I do find it interesting that Brown campaigned against the Mitt Romney legacy.  It was as Governor that the former presidential candidate passed his signature bill mandating that all citizens in Massachusetts buy health insurance.  It has been a dismal failure as people refuse to be gouged year after year by greedy and predatory insurance companies.  My fear with this bill will be that the seven major health insurers will simply collude and divide the country into individual monopolies as exists now.

The voters yesterday rejected their own mandated plans and saved the rest of us, hopefully, from the same fate.  Washington is deaf however and plans are already under way to further weaken the bill to obtain a vote from one of Maine’s Senators.  Another option is to have the House pass the terrible Senate bill.  Americans are up in arms over the way Democrats have continuously weakened this bill and become weak in the process.  They sent another message yesterday and, again, leadership in Washington isn’t listening.

The irony of all this is that Republicans who destroyed our economy, shredded the Bill of Rights and sent $5 trillion of wealth into the ether then blocked every meaningful piece of legislation coming down the pike are being rewarded.  After all the mess we’re in is the direct result of Republican policies yet voters are going to the polls and electing Republicans.  Part of the problem is the horrible candidates being run by Democrats.  Corrupt Jon Corzine in New Jersey, weak Creigh Deeds in Virginia and Martha Coakley who apparently thought going on vacation was a higher priority than being elected to the Senate.  With candidates like these no wonder Republicans are winning.

The fact is voters have nowhere to turn.  With both major parties owned and operated by big business the people have no where to turn.  I recall Howard Dean’s famous message from 2004:  Take Our Country Back.  We didn’t because we forgot we have to take the Party back first.  That’s the message from Massachusetts.

News & Notes January 11, 2010

Lots of stuff is going on and I’ve been buried in planning projects.  Be sure to register for the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit.  There’s a link on the left sidebar here at the blog.

Nancy Pelosi is coming to the next State Committee meeting in Lancaster.  The event is February 5-6 at the Lancaster Host Resort.  The state Party meetings are now so large there are limited venues for hosting them.  I understand the Pennsylvania Republican Party is having no such issues.

As New Jersey voted down marriage equality last week I am reminded that here in Pennsylvania we constantly battle to keep constitutional amendments from passing legalizing discrimination.  If Iowa can do it why can’t we?  When Iowa is more progressive than New Jersey and Pennsylvania we have issues.  Even conservatives are making the case.

Harry Reid shot himself.  The self inflicted wound was stupid, arrogant and racist.  Should he resign?  The President graciously accepted his apology.  Since the remarks were directed at the President he is the only one whose opinion should matter.

Wendell Potter, former VP of CIGNA, will be speaking at Kutztown University January 20th.  The famous health insurance whistle blower has much to say about the state of health care and reform legislation.

Tom Knox and others are pushing a “resign to run” law for Pennsylvania.  The issue of AG Tom Corbett using his office for political purposes, or the perception thereof, is leading the charge for such legislation.  I think it’s good provided the scope of the law is realistic.  I do worry it could dampen the fields for some offices.  I think the more candidates and choices voters have the better.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette has an article about the AFL-CIO not yet endorsing a candidate for Governor.  I can understand why since there are numerous ones with good records on labor issues.  I suspect they’ll wait and see who shakes out and who emerges from the primary.  Why take sides and alienate someone who is good for your rank and file?

State House candidate Patrick Slattery is our guest Thursday on Democratic Talk Radio.  He is running against Republican Doug Reichley.

The funeral for Vice President Biden’s mother will be tomorrow morning in Wilmington.  There will be a wake this evening.  I’m undecided whether to cover the services.  It’s awfully cold out there and I do respect the family’s need for privacy at such a time.

Dave Argall made it official this morning.  He is running for Congress against Democrat Tim Holden in the 17th CD.  This is Argalls’ third campaign in two years, all for different positions.  In 2008 he ran successfully for re-election to the State House then ran for the Senate to fill the seat of the late Jim Rhoades.  Now he wants to step to Congress.  The knock on him will be he’s a perpetual campaigner.  He will take many of the same votes Tim Holden has taken for granted in Schuylkill County.  Both men reside in southern Schuylkill County.  Holden is toast.

Dems Sell Women Down the River For Bill

Democrats sold women down the proverbial river last night to pass an incremental, bad health care reform bill.  The 220-215 vote was accomplished by allowing the Joe Pitts amendment to ban federal funding for abortions to be passed.  Kathy Dahlkemper was a co-sponsor of that abomination and spoke in support of restricting health care for her gender.  Democrats should be appalled when they are on the same side as Joe Pitts.

Jason Altmire and Tim Holden both voted against the bill despite the sell out on abortion.  Altmire came to Congress from the hospital industry and Holden, well, he doesn’t have an excuse.  Both Congressmen need to be primaried next spring.  Who will step up and call them to account?  Altmire released this lame excuse: “As I said following the initial committee vote in July, I voted against the House’s health care reform bill in the Education and Labor Committee because it failed to effectively rein in rising health care costs; it was punitive toward small businesses; and it paid for reform by raising taxes, rather than by squeezing the inefficiencies out of and modernizing our health care system.”

Of course he wouldn’t have voted for single payer either (Pelosi killed a vote on that) so his argument isn’t credible.  I spoke with Rep. Holden’s office about ten days ago and they were rather disingenuous about his position.  He is my Congressman and I will do everything in my power to see him defeated next year.  Our radio show broadcasts into the 17th CD and Steve Crockett and I will remind those listeners how Holden voted FOR torture but AGAINST health care.

Paul Kanjorski issued a statement about his support for the legislation:

“The House has taken an important first step today to improve the affordability and accessibility of health care.  While today’s health care legislation is not perfect, action to address this important issue is absolutely necessary.  If we do nothing to reform health care, health care costs are expected to double over the next ten years, just as they have over the last ten years.

I was amused at all the grandstanding by Republicans on Medicare.  They hate Medicare and used all the same fear mongering to kill that bill as they did on this one.  Now they pretend to be standing up in support of seniors when their position is anything but.  The “cuts in Medicare” are not what they claim.  The GOP Congress under George W. Bush guttted Medicare for senior citizens by privatizing a large portion of it in what they named “Medicare Advantage” plans.  These privatized, private sector plans are being sold heavily right now due to open enrollment.  Humana and the other huge insurance conglomerates were allowed to sell Medicare coverage for profit.  These cost seniors 9% more than if they had remained on Medicare.  Medicare Advantage is NOT Medicare.  These senior citizens and disabled Americans think they have Medicare but, in reality, they left government insurance when they enrolled in one of these plans.  Republicans even made it impossible to rejoin Medicare after doing so.  This new legislation cuts government funding for these private plans.  It cuts no funds for Medicare.

Update:  Lois Herr, Democratic candidate for the 16th CD had this to say today about Joe Pitts:

Last night, the House of Representatives passed an historic bill intended to reform our country’s broken health-care system. While there is much good in the bill, an amendment sponsored by my opponent, Rep. Joe Pitts, is a direct attack on the freedom and privacy of American women.  The Stupak-Pitts amendment to the bill, which passed the House 240-194, has dangerous consequences for women and violates President Obama’s promise that no one will lose the coverage they have now.

In a cynical and ideological move, anti-choice members of Congress, led by Pitts and Rep. Bart Stupak, have adulterated the new health-care system to deny women the right to use their own personal private funds to purchase health insurance with abortion coverage.  In doing so, the amendment makes it virtually impossible for private insurance companies to offer such coverage to any women, even if that coverage is not subsidized by the government.

        The vast majority of private-insurance plans currently cover all reproductive health services; Pitts’ amendment prohibits companies that participate in the new system from continuing those existing plans. More importantly, putting such restrictions on insurance companies and women is equivalent to denying quality heath care for women by restricting access to abortion. This is a radical change that goes far beyond existing policy, and it violates the commitment that nothing in the new health-care system would eliminate existing coverage for individuals.

Make no mistake, the target of this amendment is women’s health, privacy and legal rights. The advocates of the far right have hijacked the health care bill. Along with most Americans, I urge the Senate to do what is right and eliminate this dangerous provision from the final bill sent to President Obama, and I urge you to write or call Sens. Casey and Specter and tell them how you feel.

As a point of disclosure I served as Lois’ Berks County Field Manager in 2004.  If you’d like to make Pitts pay for his treachery towards women donate to the Herr campaign here.

Jake Kaskey of Equality Pennsylvania had the best Tweet I saw today.  He welcomed those of us in the reproductive rights community under the bus that Democrats are driving.  Since I straddle both (I serve on the Board of Directors of Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates) I’m doubly run over by these acts.  I suppose you just need a good dry cleaner to get the tire treads out of your clothes.  Better yet, let’s get better Democrats.

CIA Lies to Pelosi Being Investigated

The National Journal reports that a House Committee is investigating charges the CIA lied to Speaker Nancy Pelosi about waterboarding and other torture.  The law requires that the intelligence agency brief Congressional leaders.  Following disclosures that the Bush team was torturing prisoners Republicans attacked Pelosi for knowing about the procedures and doing nothing.  Now we are discovering she didn’t know and, indeed, was lied to about the law breaking by BushCo.

The House Intelligence Committee says five cases are being investigated to determine if CIA officials broke the law.  I realize it is shocking to think the CIA broke the law.  After all they broke it in torturing prisoners, in rendering them to countries for the sole purpose of torture, and again when wiretapping Americans.  Shock of shocks they’d also lie to cover their asses!!!  I say I’m shocked and appalled to discover there is gambling going in here in Rick’s Cafe!